Less than two weeks after the 11th anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, nearly $70 million has been approved for two projects along the Mississippi Gulf Coast by the RESTORE Council.
Announced by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and Governor Tate Reeves, the projects are among a list of 20 across the Gulf Coast and aim to restore habitats and improve water quality in Coastal Mississippi waters.
“I am pleased the RESTORE Council is moving forward with these restoration projects including two projects in Mississippi. These projects will improve our Gulf Coast’s water quality and enhance coastal habitat for fish and wildlife that are so vital to commercial and recreational opportunities,” Governor Reeves said.
The two projects are:
- Coastal Nearshore Habitat Restoration and Development Program in Mississippi ($34.6 million) — this program will restore and conserve habitat through activities to create, restore, and enhance coastal habitat, including marsh, beach, and dunes through the dedicated sourcing of materials. Program activities include planning, engineering and design, and construction of habitat in the three coastal counties of Mississippi, and builds off work funded by the plan as well as National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund projects. Read more here.
- Water Quality Improvement Program for Coastal Mississippi Waters ($34.25 million) — this program’s goal is to restore water quality and quantity on the Mississippi Gulf Coast through the identification and implementation of water quality improvement projects. Program activities include planning, engineering and design, septic-to-sewer conversion, implementation of new stormwater and wastewater systems, and repairing/upgrading existing stormwater and wastewater systems. This program would be coordinated with water quality improvement efforts under other funding streams to maximize effectiveness. Read more here.
“For several years we have listened and heard Mississippians ask us to implement projects that improve water quality that in turn improves the ecology of the Coast. These projects will augment initiatives and projects already underway and will help us work to improve water quality and its subsequent benefits,” Chris Wells, MDEQ Executive Director, said.
The approved plan includes projects for the five Gulf of Mexico states and several federal agencies. Several of these projects will also benefit Mississippi:
- Gulf of Mexico Coast Conservation Corps (GulfCorps) Program ($11.9 million) — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will use the funding to implement the Gulf of Mexico Coast Conservation Corps (GulfCorps) Program for an additional four years. GulfCorps organizations in each Gulf state will recruit, train, employ and help to inspire hundreds of young adults to produce habitat restoration benefits and become the Gulf of Mexico’s future restoration workforce.
According to the Nature Conservancy in Mississippi, the GulfCorps project will create 400 jobs across Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Texas, and Louisiana over the next four years.
- Enhancing Gulf Waters through Forested Watershed Restoration ($23 million) — the U.S. Department of Agriculture will use the funding for the Enhancing Gulf Waters through Forested Watershed Restoration program to provide technical and financial assistance to private landowners and communities in watersheds where forest resources are instrumental to the health of the Gulf. A coordinated cross-boundary effort will be led by state forestry agencies in Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi, leveraging the funding and activities of other organizations.
- Gulf Coast Conservation Reserve Program ($3.1 million) – additional funding for the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Gulf Coast Conservation Reserve Program (GCCRP). NRCS is currently implementing the program in Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida for the purpose of protecting and restoring critical wildlife habitat and improving water quality through the development of wildlife habitat, conservation, and forest management plans.
- Tribal Youth Coastal Restoration Program ($927,000) — The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs will fund the Tribal Youth Coastal Restoration Program for the following federally-recognized tribes: Chitimacha Tribe, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Seminole Tribe of Florida, and Miccosukee Indian Tribe, and will add the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana. Tribes will create projects to protect natural resources and the environment, and maintain a healthy ecosystem, while learning cultural values. These training projects should restore 1,000 acres of habitat on Tribal lands.
Thirty percent of the Clean Water Act penalties from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are directed to the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund managed by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (RESTORE Council) to implement ecosystem restoration under a Comprehensive Plan, developed by the Council with input from the public, to restore the ecosystem and the economy of the Gulf Coast Region. This 30 percent is referred to as the Council-Selected Restoration Component (or “Bucket 2”). The Council approves Bucket 2 projects and programs for funding in what is called a Funded Priorities List (FPL).
More information about Mississippi’s restoration efforts can be found at restore.ms.